Preservation of the Wordings and Meanings of the Qur’an among the Salaf: Tafsir ibn Kathir

In surah al-Nisaa’, Allah informs us of the following:

وَرُسُلًا قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلًا لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ ۚ وَكَلَّمَ اللَّـهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا

And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you, – and Allah spoke to Moosaa directly. [4:164]

In part of his commentary on this ayah, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir mentioned the following points:

وقوله : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) وهذا تشريف لموسى ، عليه السلام ، بهذه الصفة ; ولهذا يقال [ ص: 475 ] له : الكليم . وقد قال الحافظ أبو بكر بن مردويه : حدثنا أحمد بن محمد بن سليمان المالكي ، حدثنا مسيح بن حاتم ، حدثنا عبد الجبار بن عبد الله قال : جاء رجل إلى أبي بكر بن عياش فقال : سمعت رجلا يقرأ : ” وكلم الله موسى تكليما ” فقال أبو بكر : ما قرأ هذا إلا كافر ، قرأت على الأعمش ، وقرأ الأعمش على [ يحيى ] بن وثاب ، وقرأ يحيى بن وثاب على أبي عبد الرحمن السلمي ، وقرأ أبو عبد الرحمن ، على علي بن أبي طالب ، وقرأ علي بن أبي طالب على رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( وكلم الله موسى تكليما ) . ـ

Allah’s statement: Continue reading

Merits of Surah al-Nisaa’: Tafsir ibn Kathir

A number of the books of tafsir begin their explanations of each surah with a section on the virtues of that particular surah. However, most of these sections are largely made up of fabricated or weak narrations. The famous mufassir, al-haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir, strove to avoid much inauthentic material in his tafsir or to follow up such material with notes as to its status and veracity. So when he did begin his explanation of surah al-Nisaa’ by mentioning some of its merits, he approached things in a different manner by bringing statements from some of the scholars of the Sahabah about this surah:

 وقال الحاكم في مستدركه : حدثنا أبو العباس محمد بن يعقوب ، حدثنا أبو البختري عبد الله بن محمد بن شاكر ، حدثنا محمد بن بشر العبدي ، حدثنا مسعر بن كدام ، عن معن بن عبد الرحمن بن عبد الله بن مسعود عن أبيه ، عن عبد الله بن مسعود ، رضي الله عنه ، قال : إن في سورة النساء لخمس آيات ما يسرني أن لي بها الدنيا وما فيها : ( إن الله لا يظلم مثقال ذرة ) الآية ، و ( إن تجتنبوا كبائر ما تنهون عنه ) الآية ، و ( إن الله لا يغفر أن يشرك به ويغفر ما دون ذلك لمن يشاء ) و ( ولو أنهم إذ ظلموا أنفسهم جاءوك ) الآية ، و ( ومن يعمل سوءا أو يظلم نفسه ثم يستغفر الله يجد الله غفورا رحيما ) ثم قال : هذا إسناد صحيح إن كان عبد الرحمن سمع من أبيه ، فقد اختلف في ذلك . ـ

○ al-Haakim said in his book al-Mustadrak: … that the grandson of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood narrated from his father who narrated from his father, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him), that he said: In surah al-Nisaa’ there are five ayaat which are more pleasing to me than the entire world and all that is in it.

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ ۖ وَإِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَاعِفْهَا وَيُؤْتِ مِن لَّدُنْهُ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

Surely, Allah does not do an atom’s worth of injustice. But if you have some good, He multiplies it and give a great reward from Himself [4:40]

إِن تَجْتَنِبُوا كَبَائِرَ مَا تُنْهَوْنَ عَنْهُ نُكَفِّرْ عَنكُمْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَنُدْخِلْكُم مُّدْخَلًا كَرِيمًا

If you avoid the major sins from which you are forbidden, We will expiate your minor sins from you and enter you into a noble entrance. [4:31]

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا

Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray. [4:116]

وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّـهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّـهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا

And if, when they wronged themselves, they had come to you, [O Muhammad], and asked forgiveness of Allah and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found Allah Accepting of repentance and Merciful. [4:64]

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ سُوءًا أَوْ يَظْلِمْ نَفْسَهُ ثُمَّ يَسْتَغْفِرِ اللَّـهَ يَجِدِ اللَّـهَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [4:110]

And then al-Haakim said: This chain of narration is sound, so long as the grandson heard it from his father, and there is some differing as to whether he did or not. Continue reading

“The Signs of the Hypocrite are Three” in the Qur’an

Abu Hurayrah narrated that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said:

آيَةُ اَلْمُنَافِقِ ثَلَاثٌ: إِذَا حَدَّثَ كَذَبَ, وَإِذَا وَعَدَ أَخْلَفَ, وَإِذَا ائْتُمِنَ خَانَ

The signs of the hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he is entrusted, he betrays his trust.

[al-Bukhari and Muslim]

In part of his extensive commentary on al-Nawawi’s 40 ahaadeeth, ibn Rajab al-Hanbali brought the following point of benefit related to this hadeeth:

وقد روي عن محمد بن كعب القرظي أنه استنبط ما في هذا الحديث – أعني حديث : آية المنافق ثلاث – من القرآن ، فقال : مصداق ذلك في كتاب الله تعالى : إذا جاءك المنافقون قالوا نشهد إنك لرسول الله إلى قوله : [ ص: 490 ] والله يشهد إن المنافقين لكاذبون [ المنافقون : 1 ] ، وقال تعالى : ومنهم من عاهد الله لئن آتانا من فضله إلى قوله : فأعقبهم نقاقا في قلوبهم إلى يوم يلقونه بما أخلفوا الله ما وعدوه وبما كانوا يكذبون [ التوبة : 74 – 77 ] ، وقال : إنا عرضنا الأمانة على السماوات والأرض والجبال الأحزاب إلى قوله : ليعذب الله المنافقين والمنافقات [ الأحزاب : 72 – 73 ] . ـ

It has been related that Muhammad ibn K’ab al-Qurathi extracted the contents of this hadeeth – meaning the hadeeth “the signs of the hypocrite are three” – from the Qur’an. For he said: This is confirmed in the Book of Allah,

إِذَا جَاءَكَ الْمُنَافِقُونَ قَالُوا نَشْهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ اللَّـهِ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ يَعْلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُهُ وَاللَّـهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَكَاذِبُونَ

When the hypocrites come to you, [O Muhammad], they say, “We testify that you are the Messenger of Allah.” And Allah knows that you are His Messenger, and Allah testifies that the hypocrites are liars. [63:1]

And He said: Continue reading

Ibn Kathir’s brief remarks on the contents of Surah al-Fatihah

After completing his individual explanations of each of the verses of surah al-Fatihah, al-Hafidh Abu’l-Fidaa’ Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir made the following brief remarks about the contents of the surah as a whole:

اشتملت هذه السورة الكريمة وهي سبع آيات فضلها ، على حمد الله وتمجيده والثناء عليه ، بذكر أسمائه الحسنى المستلزمة لصفاته العليا ، وعلى ذكر المعاد وهو يوم الدين ، وعلى إرشاده عبيده إلى سؤاله والتضرع إليه ، والتبرؤ من حولهم وقوتهم ، وإلى إخلاص العبادة له وتوحيده بالألوهية تبارك وتعالى ، وتنزيهه أن يكون له شريك أو نظير أو مماثل ، وإلى سؤالهم إياه الهداية إلى الصراط المستقيم ، وهو الدين القويم ، وتثبيتهم عليه حتى يفضي بهم ذلك إلى جواز الصراط الحسي يوم القيامة ، المفضي بهم إلى جنات النعيم في جوار النبيين ، والصديقين ، والشهداء ، والصالحين . واشتملت على الترغيب في الأعمال الصالحة ، ليكونوا مع أهلها يوم القيامة ، والتحذير من مسالك الباطل ؛ لئلا يحشروا مع سالكيها يوم القيامة ، وهم المغضوب عليهم والضالون . ـ

This noble surah – while being only seven ayaat – contains many virtues. These include containing praise, glorification and extolling of Allah by mentioning His beautiful names which necessarily entail His lofty attributes.

And it contains mention of the ultimate destination, which is the Day of Recompense.

And it contains Allah’s guidance to His slaves to ask Him and supplicate to Him, and to disassociate themselves from any claim of possessing might or power.

It contains Allah’s guidance to have sincerity in worshiping Him and singling Him out in deity – exalted is He – , and declaring Him free from having any partners, equals or peers. Continue reading

Four things for you and Three things against you

Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned the following statement of the taabi’ and scholar of al-Shaam Makḥool[1] (d. 112 or 133AH) in his tafsir of surah al-Nisaa’ (4:147):

وقال مكحول: أربع من كن فيه كن له، وثلاث من كن فيه كن عليه، فالأربع اللاتي له: فالشكر والايمان والدعاء والاستغفار، قال الله تعالى: {ما يَفْعَلُ اللَّهُ بِعَذابِكُمْ إِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنْتُمْ} وقال الله تعالى: {وَما كانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنْتَ فِيهِمْ وَما كانَ اللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ} وقال تعالى: {قُلْ ما يَعْبَؤُا بِكُمْ رَبِّي لَوْلا دُعاؤُكُمْ}. .ـ

There are four things that whoever has them has them in his favor, and there are three things that whoever has them has them against him.

The four things which are in his favor are: 1) gratitude, 2) eemaan, 3) supplication and 4) seeking forgiveness.

Allah said (1 & 2):

 مَا يَفْعَلُ اللَّهُ بِعَذَابِكُمْ إِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ وَآمَنْتُمْ

Why should Allah punish you if you have thanked (Him) and have believed in Him? [4:147].

And Allah said (4):

وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَأَنْتَ فِيهِمْ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ مُعَذِّبَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ

and Allah would not punish them while they seek forgiveness [8:33].

And He said (3): Continue reading

“If there had been a concession for anyone in leaving off dhikr…”

The Taabi’ and mufassir Muhammad ibn Ka’b al-Qurathi (d. 108AH) said:

لو رخص لأحد في ترك الذكر، لرخص لزكريا عليه السلام، قال تعالى: { آيَتُكَ أَلَّا تُكَلِّمَ النَّاسَ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ إِلَّا رَمْزاً وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ كَثِيراً وَسَبِّحْ بِالْعَشِيِّ وَالْإِبْكَارِ } [آل عمران: 41]. ـ

If there had been a rukhsah (concession) for anyone in leaving off dhikr (remembrance of Allah), then there would have been a rukhsah for Zakariyyah (‘alaihi al-salaam). But Allah said:

آيَتُكَ أَلَّا تُكَلِّمَ النَّاسَ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ إِلَّا رَمْزاً وَاذْكُرْ رَبَّكَ كَثِيراً وَسَبِّحْ بِالْعَشِيِّ وَالْإِبْكَارِ

Your sign [that Allah will give you a son, Yahya] is that you will not [be able to] speak to the people for three days except by gesture. And remember your Lord much and exalt [Him with praise] in the evening and the morning. [3:41]

ولو رخص لأحد في ترك الذكر لرخص للذين يقاتلون في سبيل الله، قال تعالى: { يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا لَقِيتُمْ فِئَةً فَاثْبُتُوا وَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ كَثِيراً لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ } [الأنفال: 45] . ـ

And if there were to be a rukhsah for anyone in leaving off dhikr, then there would have been a rukhsah for those who fight in the path of Allah. But Allah said:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا لَقِيتُمْ فِئَةً فَاثْبُتُوا وَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ كَثِيراً لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

O you who have believed, when you meet an (enemy) force, stand firm and remember Allah much in order that you may be successful. [8:45]

[al-Bidayah w’al-Nihayah 9/286. See also Jaami’ li-Ahkaam al-Qur’an 4/78, Tafsir ibn ‘Atiyyah 3/217, Hilyah al-Awliyah 3/215]

See also: Two things for which there are no concessions

See also: “O you who have believed, remember Allah with much remembrance”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Four things for you and Three things against you

See also: Performing the Prayers in their Proper Times: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: “The Signs of the Hypocrite are Three” in the Qur’an

A sin may be beneficial for a person: Ibn al-Qayyim

The great scholar Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) wrote:

إن الذنب قد يكون أنفع للعبد إذا اقترنت به التوبة من كثير من الطاعات ، وهذا معنى قول بعض السلف : قد يعمل العبد الذنب فيدخل به الجنة ويعمل الطاعة فيدخل بها النار ، قالوا : وكيف ذلك قال : يعمل الذنب فلا يزال نصب عينيه إن قام وإن قعد وإن مشى ذكر ذنبه فيُحدِثُ له انكساراً وتوبةً واستغفارا وندما فيكون ذلك سبب نجاته ، ويعمل الحسنة فلا تزال نصب عينيه إن قام وإن قعد وإن مشى كلما ذكرها أورثته عجباً وكبرا ومنة فتكون سبب هلاكه

Sin may be more beneficial for a person – if it leads him to repent – than engaging in many acts of obedience. This is the meaning of the statement of one of the salaf,

“‘A person may commit a sin and enter Paradise because of it, or he may do an act of worship and enter Hell because of it.’ They said, ‘How is that?’ He replied, ‘He may commit a sin and then it remains at the forefront of his thoughts, and when he stands or sits or walks he remembers his sin. So then there comes about shame, repentance, seeking forgiveness and regret, so that that will be the means of his salvation. And [on the other hand] one may perform a good deed and it remains at the forefront of his thoughts, so when he stands or sits or walks he always remembers it and it results in him being amazed [with himself] and prideful. So that will be from the cause of his doom.'”

Continue reading

Two things for which there are no concessions

Following the great victory for the Muslims at the Battle of al-Qaadisiyyah, Ameer al-Mu’mineen ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab wrote a letter to his commander Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas wherein he said:

أما بعد فإن الله جل وعلا أنزل في كل شيء رخصة في بعد الحالات إلا في أمريم : العدل في السيرة والذكر. فأما الذكر فلا رخصة فيه في حال ، ولم يرض منه إلا كثير . وأما العدل فلا رخصة فيه في قريب ولا بعيد ، ولا في شدة ولا في رجاء. والعدل – وإن رئي لينًا – فهو أقوى وأطفأ للجور ، وأقمع للباطل من الجور

“To proceed: Verily Allah has provided concessions for everything in certain circumstances, except for two things: Justice and Dhikr. As for dhikr (remembrance of Allah), there is no concession under any circumstances and Allah is not pleased with anything except a great deal of it. And as for justice; there is no concession in it, neither at times of hardship nor ease. And justice – even if it appears soft – it is stronger than injustice and is more able to suppress falsehood than injustice.”

[Taareekh al-Tabari 4/410]

See also: “If there had been a concession for anyone in leaving off dhikr…”

See also: “So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: “O you who have believed, remember Allah with much remembrance”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Everything has two ends and a middle

“A donation is not to be compared to a bribe”: Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali

Abu’l-Faraj Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, in part of a longer discussion on repentance, wrote the following insightful words on a great difference between our father Adam (‘alaihis salaam) and the Shaytaan.

سبحان من إذا لطف بعبده في المحن قلبها منحاً, وإذا خذل عبداً لم ينفعه كثرة اجتهاده, وعاد عليه وبالا. لُقِّنَ آدم حجَّتَه وأُلقي إليه ما تُتَقبَّلُ به توبته : ( فَتَلَقَّىٰ آدَمُ مِن رَّ‌بِّهِ كَلِمَاتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ).

Exalted is He who, if He is kind to His slave in tribulation He bestows a blessing upon his heart, and if He abandons a slave, then no large amount of effort will be of benefit to him, and this effort will turn upon him [i.e. he will be punished for his misguided efforts]. Adam was inspired with his plea and received what would lead to the acceptance of his tawbah (repentance), “Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance.” [2:37]

وطرد إبليس بعد طول خدمته فصار عمله هباء منثورا (قَالَ فَاخْرُ‌جْ مِنْهَا فَإِنَّكَ رَ‌جِيمٌ  وَإِنَّ عَلَيْكَ اللَّعْنَةَ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ). إذا وضع عدله على عبد لم تبق له حسنة, وإذا بسط فضله على عبد لم تبق له سيئة

يُعْطِي وَيَمْنَعُ من يشاء كما يَشَا     وهِباتُهُ لَيْسَتْ تُقارِنُها الرُّشا

And Iblees was expelled (from Jannah) after he prolonged his dispute, so his deeds all came to nothing, “[Allah] said, ‘Then get out of it, for indeed, you are expelled. And indeed, upon you is the curse until the Day of Recompense.” [14:34-35]. When Allah executes His justice on a slave, then no good remains for him, and when He extends His favor to a slave, then no sins remain for him.  

Allah gives and withholds to whom He wills, as He wills
And a donation is not to be compared to a bribe

[Lataa’if al-Ma’aarif pg. 123]

See also: “All of you are astray except whomever I guide”: Explanation of Ibn Rajab

See also: Allah created His creation in darkness: Sharh al-Mubaarakfoori

See also: The purpose of Allah’s creation: Imam al-Shinqitee

When I am afflicted with a calamity, I praise Allah four times

Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali reports that some of the salaf used to say:

قال بعض السلف : إني لأصاب  بالمصيبة فأحمد الله عليها أربع مرات : أحمد الله إذ لم تكن أعظم مما هي ، وأحمد الله إذ رزقني الصبر عليها ، وأحمده إذ وفقني الاسترجاع ، وأحمده إذ لم يجعلها في ديني

When I am afflicted with a calamity, I praise Allah four times: I praise Allah for it not being worse than it is, I praise Allah that He provided me with the ability to bear it patiently, and I praise Him for granting me the accord to say, ‘Verily to Allah do we belong and to Him do we return’, and I praise Him for not making the tribulation in my religion.

[Majmoo’ al-Rasaa’il Ibn Rajab vol. 3 p. 155]

See also: “Indeed to Allah we belong, and to Him we will return”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Whoever believes in Allah, He will guide his heart in times of trial: Tafsir al-Qurtubi